The creation of a housing authority, a community land trust, and density “transition zones” are among the measures being recommended by a city task force.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said the recommendations are aimed at speeding up the development of new affordable housing and approvals through city hall.
“There is no quick fix for affordable housing in Vancouver,” the mayor and co-chair of the city’s housing affordability task force said at a news conference today (June 25).
“But this is embedding a focus on affordable housing in city hall’s DNA, ensuring that it is a big priority and that we do all we can to mobilize the private sector…to ensure we have an adequate supply of affordable housing.”
The city-owned housing authority being recommended by the task force would oversee Vancouver's non-market housing stock and develop social and affordable housing within a certain range of affordability, according to the task force’s interim report.
“A housing authority at the city could help basically take some of that work load out of the planning and development department and actually fast-track applications to be sure that we’re giving them the priority that they deserve,” said Robertson.
The report also recommends the encouragement of different forms of housing such as row houses, townhouses, secondary suites and laneway homes in certain “transition zones” located between high-density housing near transit hubs and major arterials, and single-family neighbourhoods.
“When we look at this issue, we realize that over 70 percent of the zoning of the city is for single family-type housing,” said deputy city manager David McLellan.
“We see that there’s an opportunity to utilize our transit system, which is well-developed in this city, to increase the opportunity for higher housing forms along major arterials, and to create a transition zone back from that to the residential neighbourhoods, in which we could have a larger number of households per lot, and there would be more access to ground-oriented housing, which is in such strong demand in the city.”
Other recommendations in the interim report include fast-tracking the process for affordable housing projects, and examining the feasibility of rental housing in certain industrial zones, such as the western edge of False Creek Flats.
NPA councillor George Affleck called the use of a portion of land for development in that area a good measure, but said he's concerned about the impact on the city of some of the recommendations outlined in the report.
"My concern regarding creating a housing authority and all these different things is the risk to the city," he told the Straight by phone.
"The city going into business, which is sort of what this is describing, concerns me, and what the checks and balances would be."
The task force is also recommending a revised inclusionary zoning policy for major projects to provide more rental or affordable ownership options for low to moderate income households. The city’s current policy requires developers to dedicate 20 percent of major projects to affordable housing.
Robertson said the work of the task force was focused on affordable housing options for the low to middle income brackets.
According to the report, that bracket ranges from $21,500 for a single-income household, up to $86,500 per year for both single and dual-income households.
“For many of these households, incomes are too low to be able to afford the costs of ownership,” the report reads. “Low vacancy rates and rising rental rates mean that even finding affordable rental housing is a challenge.”
The majority of Vancouver’s purpose-built rental stock was built in the 1960s and 1970s, and vacancy rates have averaged at just 0.9 percent over the past 30 years, according to the report.
The recommendations released today were developed over a six-month period by an 18-member task force co-chaired by Robertson and Olga Ilich, a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister. Robertson announced the task force during his inaugural speech in December 2011.
The city will now seek public input on the plan through forums including a web-based survey. The interim report will be discussed at city council Wednesday (June 27), and a final report will go to council in September.